The article by Bill Lear Jr. on the static testing of the Learjet windshield was degrading, insulting and factually incorrect. My brother’s fairy tale was well written and humorous, and like most stories about Bill Lear and his jet has a grain of truth. But other than the fact a bird hit the windshield during static testing, everything else in his story is pure, unadulterated bullshit.
Would your fish wrap rather print well-written, humorous bullshit by well-known personalities in place of historically accurate, well-researched stories? Are you folks in the habit of printing stories written by other than editorial staff members without the slightest bit of checking or research? Many who watched the test are still alive and coherent. Why you would print a story like that without corroboration from at least one but preferably two witnesses is beyond me.
How Karen Di Piazza could have spent nearly a year interviewing me and not asked my input on the windshield-testing story is inconceivable. The article was an insult to those engineers who told my father, prior to the test, that that particular windshield would not hold up under the test. It’s degrading to Swedlow Plastics Company, in particular Dave Swedlow (Plastics Hall of Fame Inductee, 1993), who made the windshield. Furthermore, it’s factually incorrect as to the resulting damage.
Without bothering to go over the whole story again with each and every error, let me point out a few things. Remember that I was there in Wichita working part time in public relations and part time bucking rivets on graveyard and later flew for a Learjet dealer in southern California. Bill Jr. was living in Geneva, Switzerland, and about all he knew about what was going on in Wichita was what Dad told him.
The article didn’t explain that that particular windshield was from a Lear Jet Model 23, certificated under then FAR Part 23 with Special Regulations (private aircraft). Under pressure from his dealers and customers, Dad decided to re-certificate the Learjet under Part Far 4b (or as it became known, Part 25), the regulation under which airliners were certificated, starting with Learjet serial no. 100 (the 104th airframe, I think). He thought we could use the same windshield as the Model 23 and that was the windshield that was used in the test described in the article. It was a dual pane of thin Lexan. It’s true that the chicken went through the windshield, but it did not penetrate the aft pressure bulkhead or blow off the tail cone or hit the hangar door. (First of all it would have taken an Exocet missile to go through the aft pressure bulkhead, and second, the airplane was parked parallel to the hangar doors and about 100 feet west on the ramp just in case the test didn’t go as my father planned). But it makes a hell of a good story and sometimes I wonder why I don’t just keep my mouth shut because, after all, who cares what the exact truth is anymore, just so long as it’s a good story.
The solution to the problem was a much thicker windshield of single pane Lexan from the windshield maker, Swedlow Plastics Company. The chicken splitter described as invented by Lear was a normal, required, previously designed and used item for aircraft certificated under 4b (Part 25), invented about the time of the DC-2, and was not an innovation of Lear’s. Lear was famous for hogging credit, which he did frequently and sometimes unfairly. Furthermore, the chicken splitter as described would not help in passing the bird tests because the FAA requirements are that the chicken hit the windshield at a 90 degree angle. Attached is a picture of me flying a Convair 440 in Cambodia in 1972. The Convair 440 was designed and built in the early 1950s and you can plainly see the chicken splitter on the forward center of the windshield.
Our father did a great many things and truly made this world a better place to live for some. I was there and watched the evolution of some of them. I have a habit, which irritates many, of trying to bring truth and perspective into some of his stories.
Airplane pilot (ret.)
Just a short note to tell you what a great article Karen put together! I was stunned by its coverage–in scope, depth and distribution! Kudos to you both. But I would like to clarify something. I did not “skip” to Germany to avoid going to Korea. I applied for assignment to Germany in about March or April of 1950. I received my orders while stationed at Hamilton AFB, Calif., sometime in May 1950, to travel to Ft. Dix, N.J., for transportation by sea to Bremerhaven, Germany. Concurrent travel (I could bring my wife with me) was authorized. We drove to Ft. Dix from Los Angeles, after taking some leave, sometime that month in 1950.
As my orders weren’t found when we arrived at Ft. Dix, we were told to hang loose until we heard from them again. My stepmother Moya’s father had a home on Long Island so we proceeded there, where we waited for about two weeks before receiving orders to report to some New York port where we finally boarded the USS General Rose for transport to Germany, after leaving our car there for later shipment to Bremerhaven. This was now sometime in early June 1950. We didn’t learn about the U.S. commitment in Korea until I had already taken up my duties at Furstenfeldbruck AFB. I believe Korea fired up on June 25, 1950. These are the facts as my memory best serves me.
Bill Lear Jr.
After receiving the article, the “Lear Gene,” I explored all the associated links (www.airportjournals.com). I wanted to tell you that I’m amazed at the contents of your periodical!
Santa Fe, Texas